- Russ Burlingame
As longtime The X-Files writer Joe Harris departs the title with its conclusion with the series’ end in August, the writer is ambivalent.
“On the one hand, I did get to do this longer than most people get to do any sort of gig in comics these days. I mean, it will be more than four years by the time I’m done, which is uncharted territory for me times two if not almost three,” Harris told ComicBook.com during a recent interview. “For me, it is a very, very long-running project. In that sense, I recognize that it’s cool to leave. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that thinks that the arc that we’re ending on, called ‘Resistance,’ is putting forth a vision for The X-Files in this Donald Trump era of America that reinvigorates the conflict a little bit.”
Most of Harris’s work on The X-Files has been with artist Matthew Dow Smith, who will draw “Resistance.”
In some ways, FOX’s The X-Files popularized conspiracy theory culture and distrust of the government, bringing Fox Mulder’s disdain for “the official narrative” into homes every week, packaged in a likable actor and a character who always seemed to be right.
Years later, American politics and the entertainment and media following it seems to be an endless funhouse mirror of conspiracies upon conspiracies upon conspiracies, some of which get the social media support of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has supported fringe theories, most notably his insistence that former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery and that Obama was not born in the United States.
“We used to wonder, ‘Should you trust the government?’” Harris explained. “I think we go a few steps further now, where ‘No, of course you shouldn’t f—ing trust the government.’ If anything, I’m glad that we’re ending on this note that does what I think this franchise should be doing in the age of Trump. I’m a little bummed because I’d like to keep doing it, but I’ve got very few complaints.”
One thing that he will admit is that there is a creative struggle to accomplish everything he set out to in 17 issues — this particular run of the series was originally slated for 25 — but that’s something he’s used to.
“This isn’t the first X-Files series that’s been cut short by factors that had nothing to do with what it is I wanted to do,” Harris said. “Season 11 was supposed to go 25 issues but then they had us shut down to follow the show when it came back.”
Back then, he managed to convert the challenge into a win; while he admits he would have liked to have had an extra year to resolve the Gibson Praise storyline that was playing out in The X-Files: Season 11, some of that material carried over into the current volume and helped set the stage for where the book ended up.
“There was a longer plan in place with Gibson Praise and his desire to kind of ‘desk’ Mulder,” Harris explained. “What I wanted to get into was a little competition in which Mulder loses more than he doesn’t as this kind of master chess player goes back and tries to resolve everything he’s left unresolved. That was something I really wanted to do that I wasn’t able to do; I really needed another 10 to 15 issues to pull off all the things that I wanted to before we resolved the whole Gibson Praise thing in Season 11, so that carried over into the new series. There were a few themes that carried over into the new series. Even when we launched the new series, I never in a million years imagined this guy as President, and so that has evolved a little bit too, in terms of what we were building toward. Certain themes, elements from Mulder’s past coming back to test him, take things from him, and push him a little bit, that’s something i really wanted to do. It’s Mulder’s story. Anyone who’s a fan would tell you that Dana Scully is just as important, and she is, and I love writing Scully, but it’s really Mulder’s saga and it was always going to come down to something from Mulder’s past that he’s going to have to deal with, and looking forward it’s a question of whether or not it’s resolved for good or bad. That’s something I’ve wanted from the beginning, and we’re attempting to do now, as we stir this up with ‘Resistance.’”
Admitting that what IDW plans to do next with the property — which is coming back for another short-run miniseries on FOX in 2018 — is a mystery to him, Harris explained that his job wasn’t to tee up a status quo for the next potential writer, but to give the best potential series finale he could.
“I don’t know what’s coming next, so I’m just trying to find some kind of resolution here. I’m gratified that we’re getting an opportunity to put forward our vision for what the X-Files should be in the age of Donald Trump,” Harris said.“And it’s not about him, particularly, this story. I don’t want to cast this as Mulder and Scully versus the Trump White House. It’s really a broader idea about government and the President and the White House and the Administration are compromised by what appear to be alien-possessed figures in his administration. So this concept is very much evocative of a lot of the current conspiracies that we’re seeing dripping out in various Congressional hearings, or the Congressional hearings that don’t happen because of White House interference, behind the scenes stuff we’re hearing from different intelligence agencies and on and on.”
If The X-Files is going to draw a parallel to current events, after all, it’s not going to do it with a sledgehammer; it will have a bit of subtlety, and a lot of science fiction.
While Harris has said before that he would love to write The X-Files more or less indefinitely, he admits that he’s had a pretty good run, and that setting up a status quo that can serve as a jumping-off point for himself of someone else in the future is as good an ending as one can expect in corporate comics.
As a huge fan of the property himself, he’s also just glad to have gotten away with as much as he has in the last few years.
“I’m happy whenever we’ve gotten to do anything that’s geek-out worthy with this series, from bringing back Flukeman to bringing back the Cigarette Smoking Man to doing a sequel to the ‘Home’ episode with the Peaock family,” Harris said. “I’m kind of competitive, not that I’m competing against anyone in particular, but it’s like ‘I want to do that. I want to lay that down, I want to be the person who at least attempted to put The X-Files in that context. I would like to do more stories involving Mulder and Scully and The X-Files in this strange stretch of the 21st Century we’ve entered, but I think we’re leaving with a statement about the times we live in as well as The X-Files themselves, Mulder and Scully as characters, and I’m pleased that this is the point we get to, even though I would have loved to take another year before we got there.”
“It’s a little bittersweet because I do feel attached to these characters and I do feel attached to the fandom who have been really good to me, but I’ve got a ton of ideas and things I wouldn’t mind doing off the monthly grid, too,” Harris said.
So don’t be too surprised if you find Harris, Mulder, Scully, and crew searching for the truth again sooner than you’d think.
The X-Files #14, part one of “Resistance,” is on the stands tomorrow. You can get one at your local comic shop or pre-order a digital copy now.
An adaptation of Harris’s work on The X-Files: Season 10, his first IDW X-Files story, will be released as an audio drama this summer through Amazon’s Audible audiobook service, with dialogue read by members of The X-Files‘s cast.